"The Swoose", the oldest surviving B-17 and the only remaining D model, has been transferred to the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force.
The aircraft, originally nicknamed "Ole Betsy", flew on the first combat mission in the Philippines after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
After the aircraft was damaged by enemy fighters in 1942, it was overhauled with a tail and engines from other B-17s and a makeshift tail gun was added. Its pilot gave it a new nickname after a popular song of the time about a bird that was half-swan, half-goose -- "The Swoose".
This may be old news, but 41-2667 was ordered from Hickam Field to Tontouta on New Caledonia on May 16, 1942. It carried a crew of nine from the 31st Bomb Squadron, 5th Bomb Group, and four passengers - all sergeants from various 5th Group squadrons.
I believe that this air crew, (with the exception of the pilots, Captain Kenneth Bushnell and Lieutenant V. H. Reeves, who were "bumped"), were with Colonel Cobb when the B-17 crashed on takeoff.
2/Lt E. H. Hoffman, Navigator T/Sgt C. P. Brunson T/Sgt J. F. Lopez Sgt Harry Cohn Cpl James Herriotts Cpl J. R. Clanton* Pvt C. L. Childers
Here's another mystery that may set you thinking. I have done some reseach into B17s in New Zealand and found the following article in the Aviation Historical Soc. Journal, Vol 14 No 1, 1st Feb 1971. 'The Great Fying Fortess Mystery' John Regan writes from Wellington to say that the B17E, 41-2458 which crashed at Whenuapai on 9 June 1942 was named "Texas Tornado" . This name was painted in large letters on the port side of the nose. (End of quote). We know of course that the B17 that crashed at Whenuapai was, 41-2667 not 41-2458. Did John Regan take both the name and the serial from the same aircraft. This is the first mention in the AHSNZ records of the name Texas Tornado that I have come across and wonder if later writers have picked it up and it has become enshrined in legend. Just to add a bit more confusion. I saw a photo of the Texas Tornado at a friend and fellow collector, Des Leonards place. The last 2 numbers that could be seen on the taiplane did not match with 41-2667. I asked Des to get me a copy of the photo but he did the dirty on me by dropping dead a week later, so never got it. I subsequently heard his collection on Military aircraft photos went to the RNZAF Museum, Wigram. I enquired with Mathew O'Sullivan to get a copy of this photo but it could be found nowhere. So I ask the question, did John Regan get it wrong or have subsequent writers just picked up on the original statement he made and carried on a myth. Will post some more info and photos of B17s soon.
A bit more on 41-2667 . . . according to Janice Olson, daughter of "Chick" Olson, a B-17 pilot, this is the lead-up to the tragedy.
Apparently a "five plane task force" was assembled for a secret mission, under Navy command.
In the early morning of May 16, 1942 two B-17s, (41-2658, Lt Robert B. Irwin of the 42nd Bomb Squadron, 41-2667, Captain Kenneth Bushnell of the 31st Bomb Squadron) took off from Hickam Field, bound for Tontouta, New Caledonia. Each B-17 carried four "specialists" as well as their nine-man crews.
In addition, two LB-30s took off carrying a total of three B-17 combat crews and 16 "specialists". They were bound for Nandi to pick up three B-17s that would fly on to New Caledonia . . . 41-2617, Lt Charles N. McArthur of the 394th Bomb Squadron, 41-9015, Lt S. G. Salisbury of the 431st Bomb Squadron, 41-2663 Lt Charles H. Giddings and his co-pilot "Chick" Olson, both from the 72nd Bomb Squadron.
We know that 41-2617 completed the journey from Nandi to Tontouta on May 16, and that 41-2663 flew a "shakedown" flight from Nandi on May 19, and manouevres with P-400s on May 20, before going to New Caledonia on June 9. On June 12 41-2658 flew a local flight from New Caledonia and on June 25 flew from Plaine des Gaiacs to Amberley Field in Australia. Four of the five B-17Es ended up in Australia where they flew with the 19th Bomb Group.
On June 9, 1942 Colonel Richard Cobb and Captain Joseph Bruce took Bushnell's plane and crew to New Zealand, purportedly to "pick up food and supplies", but that may well have been a cover story.
It's all shrouded in secrecy and so long ago, but it seems that the "secret mission" yielded little in the way of results.
Most of the other four B-17 crews never knew exactly what had happened to 41-2667 although Robert Irwin recalled the cause as "Failed to remove aileron and rudder locks, ran off end of runway and blew up".
As noted in a previous post, I believe one of the crew was "Clayton", not "Clanton" as shown in the 7th Bomber Command orders, and the passengers on the fatal last flight were Lt William E. Hurst, USN and Captain J. Gilbert of the Free French Navy.
My research shows 4 B17Es and 1 B17D came to New Zealand. But this of course does not rule out more. These were; B17es, 41-2667, 41-2458, 41-24430, (4)1-2434 and the B17D already shown on the forum. Here are some photos not already posted, and these are official RNZAF photos available from the RNZAF Museum. The photo of 124430 shows another B17 behind it, so 2 must have been in the country at the same time.
The photo of 124430 was so large my scanner (A4) would not handle it, so done in 2 parts.
B-17E 41-2434 was lost off the Australian coast August 17, 1942. The Hawaiian Air Depot camouflage scheme indicates that this could be the same aircraft shown in Bruce's photo on Page 4 of this thread, but if so, that photo cannot have been taken in December 1942.
Shamus, is it possible to get a tight image of the nose of the second B-17 in your photo of 41-24430? Is it a B-17E or a B-17F?
I don't want to taint this thread with idle speculation, but perhaps some "educated" guessing might lead somewhere.
The aircraft behind 41-24430 appears to be an identical B-17F. Could it be 41-24450, which was used by General Millard F. Harmon, the South Pacific commander, before it was passed on to the 5th Bomb Group (and ultimately ditched by Lt Thomas Classen on February 9, 1943)? Harmon relinquished it in early 1943 because the 5th Bomb Group was desperately short of aircraft.
If these aircraft were being used to fly the Army Air Forces', (and possibly Navy's), top brass around that would also explain why 41-24430 never made it to a combat unit.
The fellow walking toward the camera has the look of a high-ranking officer.
For those with an interest in the B17E crash at Whenuapai, 412667, this link will take you to a copy of the eye witness report that was published in the Aviation Historical Society of NZ Journal, Vol 17, No.7, 5 August 1974, and makes very interesting reading, especially the part relating to the Engine trouble.
I forwarded a link to this thread to Janice Olson, and she recalled :
'A few years ago a lovely young female TV reporter from Auckland tracked me down and did a rather thorough investigation of that incident. It seems there is a small chapel with a memorial to the crew and a plaque in a museum in Auckland. I have no idea how she got my name. She spent several months researching the event and put together a nice, but short, documentary.'
Janice also commented that 41-2667 "was part of a five-B-17 task force reporting to Admiral McCain . . . that was the Mission X (still not declassified - not for secrecy's sake . . . but for lack of budget) that sent me on the search for my dad's B-17 service".
She means that there are no resources to examine and physically declassify some documents, so they remain classified for no other reason. Do I hear you say "stimulus package"?
I remember being at Maxwell AFB in the late 1960's going through 303rd Bomb Group records, the so-called "monthly unit histories". There had been a blanket de-classification of such "Classified" items some years earlier but Marguerite K. Kennedy had to stamp and sign each folder before it could be handed over to me.
I suppose it's logical that it's not so easy with stuff that was once "Secret", but it's frustrating.
While I'm here I want to mention Shamus' comment about the possibility of an erroneous linking of 41-2667 with the name Texas Tornado. I tend to agree with him until it's proven.
And that second B-17F with 41-24430 is really keeping me awake at nights!
For the record, here's the uncropped photo of 41-24430 at what I believe is the end of her relatively short and mysterious career . . . running off the runway and into a line of parked Navy Avengers on New Caledonia.
This happened on or about March 15, 1943 but I have no further details. There must be a U.S. Navy report on this somewhere.